Starting this post with Shepherd Fairey’s political poster art because I think they’re gorgeous images. Think it speaks to the nature of diversity of women in this country.
I have never considered myself to be a feminist. But I think there is a middle ground and the Equal Rights Amendment should be ratified.
What got me thinking about the Equal Rights Amendment (ERA) was the FX/Hulu series “Mrs. America”. It tells the story of the movement to ratify the ERA. As a kid born in 1964 I was aware of a lot of this going on in the background of my childhood but I didn’t have a mother who took part in either the conservative woman movement or the feminist movement. It’s just some thing I remember is like background music of growing up years. Gloria Steinem, Betty Friedan, Shirley Chisholm, Bella Abzug and Jill Ruckelshaus were names on the news and in magazines. I never actually remembered hearing the name Phyllis Schlafly until the late 1970s. I remember seeing her newsletters somewhere when I was in high school and thinking she was a nut job. Sadly her Eagle Forum is still alive. I actually have never met anybody who belonged to it. I also never heard of her group before the “Mrs. America” series- just her.
So I am not a “bra burner” feminist as it were, but I was fascinated with this series. Why? Because of all of the names from the 70s and 80s that have peppered American politics through to the Trump presidency today. Not the feminist names…the men. Gary Hart, Jesse Helms, Dick Cheney, Paul Manafort, Donald Rumsfeld, etc. You don’t see all of them as characters, but the series is peppered with their names. And it really just makes you stop and think.
And me after watching the series? Well why ISN’T the ERA ratified yet? Given what we are dealing with today in this country, don’t you have to wonder all that might be different if the ERA was finally ratified?
I look as a woman some days at this country we live in with dismay as the future of our rights hang in the balance. There is still sexism, racism, and more in the workplace and world in general. NOW doesn’t seem so radical to me anymore. I understand why it was considered radical when it was founded, but now? Not so much.
To an extent the #MeToo movement has reinvigorated the ERA movement. But I also think 2020 may play a part as well. Mother Jones has a fabulous piece about it, written in 2018.
Now I read an article in the L.A. Times where Gloria Steinem herself takes issue with the Mrs. America series. I get she lived it, but for me as a viewer, I had a hard time keeping up with all the intersecting politics of the era the series represented. And maybe it of course had Hollywood poetic license, but it was fascinating and made me pause to think about it, like the suffragettes who came decades before these women.
Steinem said in the article: “Mrs America” is hopelessly wrong. I don’t think it’s necessarily on purpose, but it is just factually, historically wrong, because the Equal Rights Amendment was defeated by the insurance industry and other people who were profiting off women’s cheap labor. Phyllis Schlafly never changed one vote. I’m very disturbed that people may look at “Mrs. America” and feel that women are our own worst enemies. Because even when we disagree, we don’t have the power to be our own worst enemies.
I disagree with her there because women are their own worst enemies at times, and the worst enemies of each other. Women spend way too much time fighting with each other, and women in politics can be some of the worst offenders, followed closely by women on social media, for example. We are part of a somewhat barbaric and tyrannical sisterhood at times. We hurt each other as much as we help each other.
There is an interesting op-ed in the Bozeman Daily Chronicle this weekend titled Pandemic accents need for Equal Rights Amendment
By Rosanne Nash Guest columnist. Give it a read. After all the ERA has been in the works for what? About a century? Why not now?
Food for thought and check out the series.
I think regardless of our political persuasion, ratifying the ERA is long overdue.
Such a good article, Carla! Thank you for the links. I have more reading to do.
I watched Mrs. America too and thought that Phyllis Schlafly was living a life of contradictions, at least as depicted in the show (as did my 30-some year old daughter). I am a bit older than you and remember all of that the same way you described, as background noise but not really paying much attention. I also remember when the ERA was not ratified and wondered, ‘why?’. It seemed so simple.
I agree with you, why not NOW? Let;s get it ratified.